Teachers in higher education who complain about the heaps of student papers they have to check and grade can now heave a sigh of relief.
A new teaching tool using digital technology and the Internet will not only reduce to a fraction the time they spend assessing assignments and quizzes but also help them track the progress of their students.
Through McGraw-Hill Connect, a web-based learning and assessment platform, teachers can give homework or quizzes online. Students can then access their personal accounts to answer the exercises, which will be checked and graded automatically.
Connect also allows instructors to track the progress and concept comprehension of each student, or even the class as a whole, through data generated by the platform, allowing them to adapt lectures accordingly and provide additional support to students who need it.
Effective and efficient
The online tool also enables teachers to be more effective and efficient in and out of the classroom.
“It’s very useful because I’m not [restricted to face-to-face teaching],” says Don Munson, management professor at Far Eastern University in Manila. “I am always connected to my students even if we’re not seeing each other.”
Munson, who first used Connect in November, uploads not just activities but also videos and files to complement the lectures he gives in class. And because the platform does the checking and grading for him, he can focus almost exclusively on teaching.
But Connect is more than just a portal for teachers and students. It is also a resource center that provides complete materials, everything from e-textbook to syllabus, needed by instructors in teaching a particular course or program, such as accounting, chemistry, biology, psychology, etc.
Connect even has a library of its own that serves as a “course creation hub.” Instructors can assign e-book readings and draw from a rich collection of textbook-specific assignments.
They can also access ready-made PowerPoint presentations and media to use in lectures, view assignments and resources created for previous classes and post their own resources for students to use.
Even questions for different schoolwork are built-in and the level of difficulty can be determined. All the teacher has to do is choose and click.
“It makes our job much easier. We can focus on the real issues,” Munson says.
Convenient for students
At least one of his students agrees. Eunithy May Papa, a third-year financial management student, says using Connect is “more convenient” because she can access the lessons anytime and anywhere.
By working online, she also has “more time to think and verify” her answers before submitting her work.
Another Connect feature available to instructors and students is the downloadable application called LearnSmart, an interactive study tool that “adaptively assesses students’ skill and knowledge levels to track which topics students have mastered and which require further instruction and practice.”
Its “adaptive technology” can identify parts of the lesson that students are most likely to forget over the course of the semester and “encourage periodic review” by the student to ensure that those parts are truly learned and retained.
The application has components like interactive tests that measure and monitor students’ mastery of a concept so that content can be personalized to their needs, study plans based on previous performance levels and “dynamically generated reports” that document progress and areas for additional reinforcement.
LearnSmart can be used with or without an Internet connection.
Every semester, a student pays $5.50 or roughly P250 to use the learning platform. A student who subscribes to Connect has to key in his/her username and password to enter the online site.
Munson says one recurring problem among his students when using Connect is forgotten passwords. He constantly reminds them at the start of every semester to remember always both their usernames and passwords.
“The lapses are not system-based but user-based,” he says.
A support center based in the United States operates 24/7 to help retrieve passwords and attend to other customer needs.